By Tytti Erästö
Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom
At different stages of the Iranian nuclear dispute, a window toward resolution has seemed to open up. For example in 2003 Iran proposed comprehensive negotiations with the Bush administration but the window was quickly slammed shut due to the latter’s unwillingness to break the old tradition of containing Iran. This position also effectively prevented the pursuit of the diplomatic track until most of the UN sanctions resolutions against Iran had been adopted.
Obama’s openness for negotiations created the first opportunity for reaching a compromise deal in 2009. This time, however, the opportunity was lost due to domestic pressures on the Iranian side. The result was an increased determination in the West to continue with the sanctions track—a determination which also prevented the P5+1 from seizing another diplomatic opportunity, offered to them by Turkish and Brazilian mediators in 2010. In spring 2012 a dim light of hope again emerged but soon faded away as discussions between Iran and the P5+1 only seemed to confirm the incompatibility of the two sides’ positions. Particularly since the latest round of discussions, there has been a sense of surrender to the interpretation that there simply is no diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.
Surrendering to cynicism and worst-case scenarios, however, is premature as diplomatic means have by no means been exhausted. The real challenge is that the multilateral nuclear diplomacy with Iran has fallen hostage to the US-Iranian and Iranian-Israeli conflicts, which have reinforced the mutual lack of trust and created formidable obstacles for dialogue on both sides. Read more